6 min read
Freelance writers and their clients should be transparent about their rates. If we want to create an industry where writers are paid a fair rate, it starts with honest communication.
We should all be more upfront about how much we earn in any industry because, too often, it’s not consistent. We’ve all heard about the gender pay disparity between men, women, and minority groups. Recent statistics show women still only earn 81 cents for every dollar men earn, something I experienced in several jobs.
7 years, a university degree and many jobs later, I now work full-time writing online for clients, and I decide my own wage. I’ve been grinding for 9 months and earn more than I have at any other job I’ve ever worked (and I’ve done a lot of jobs). I’ve even started helping another freelance writer land clients, and she had a recurring question I knew I had to discuss:
What should I charge as a freelance writer?
Here are questions to help you decide on rates at the start of your writing journey and after you’ve got experience under your belt, based on my experiences and the various prices I’ve charged.
What’s your time worth?
If you’re just beginning with freelancing, an excellent point to start is the livable wage in your country or city. Unfortunately for me, I live in Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities globally. Now, our minimum wage here is $14.60 per hour. That’s not that high given other expenses, so $20–25 per hour was a better place to start.
With an ideal hourly wage set, I started applying to freelance writing gigs paying $20 per hour on Upwork. The first client I landed was $18 p/h, and I was ecstatic. I will preface this with the fact I have a degree in Creative Writing and sent a good 30–40 pitches on there before landing clients. Also, I did take some other gigs far below that since I was trying to get reviews on my profile.
After I had a handful of solid testimonials, I stopped considering lower-paying gigs because I now had the experience and social proof.
How big is the project?
Another important factor for your rate is the size of the project. My second gig was revising the website copy for a boardgame website for $40. It was only a single landing page, so I knew it wouldn’t take me that long to do for the client. After some back and forth, it was about 2 hours of work.
That was still within my desired wage because it was a short one-time project. It was also another great review for my profile to build up a reputation to land clients with bigger budgets.
How fast can you write?
For longer content, I have enough experience to know how long it will take. When my client provides an outline, I don’t have to spend much time researching, and a 1000 word article is probably about 2 hours of work for me. For some early gigs, I would do that for 0.05 cents a word which was $50.
Now, I can still write an article in 2 hours, but I raised my rate to 0.10 cents a word. That puts my rate at $50 per hour, which is great! The most I’ve been paid is $250 for an article from 1000–2000 words. However, those often do require more research which leads to my next point.
How much do you know about the topic?
One of my clients is a company that does 3D printing and design for small businesses that need help making the prototypes of their products. This was a niche I had no experience in, but they hired me because they wanted a strong writer. They also chose me because they wanted a layperson who could remove jargon and make their blogs easily accessible.
Because I am less familiar with the topic, they understand I need to do a lot of research. Those hours are factored into my rate, and so I charged $200 per blog post. Generally, it’s 2 hours of researching and 2 hours of writing for me. Once again, that fits with my desired rate of $25 per hour.
What type of content is it?
When I was just starting, I hadn’t picked a focus for my skills. Even now, I write everything from website copy to social media posts. Different content means a different timeframe. It also means you’re competing with different freelancers with different specializations.
Social media posts, for example, are something many people consider easy to do and won’t pay much for. My experience has been to add them in with blog writing and charge per post. For example, with some small businesses, I do $25 per post. They don’t take an hour, but there is preliminary hashtags research I do in their niche. On top of writing or editing the captions, I sometimes do graphic design and color correction for their images.
Since I am writing a lot of posts, it adds up. If I provide 10 posts a month, then that’s a steady $250 for me on top of other writing services I usually offer.
Writing website copy, on the other hand, is a very different beast. Often you’ll be revising and working with the client’s suggestions and creating different versions to test as well. Copywriting is also a slightly more specialized skill than content writing which means your hourly rate is a lot higher for that skillset than just writing social media posts. Those freelancers usually charge more, so you should price higher too.
Are you charging a flat rate or hourly?
Some projects are unpredictable, so hourly is better. As I alluded to with the website copywriting, it’s better to charge hourly since it can be a longer process than you expect. With one of my latest clients, I charge $35 per hour for their website.
Editing is also something that can be unpredictable; I would advise hourly for that. Another client I have is self-publishing a poetry book for their first time, so I charge $30 per hour. Again, I have a degree in Creative Writing, I’m a published poet, and I used to perform spoken word across Canada. The specialization allows me to charge more, and the hourly rate allows me to edit as much or as little as the work needs.
With my content writing, I’m fairly confident with my ability, and a lot of clients prefer a predictable flat rate. With my copywriting and editing, hourly is better. Even so, I usually try to ballpark a timeframe, so my clients aren’t shocked if it is more or less time than planned.
My experience is probably a bit different from other freelancers, especially since I have a degree in writing and a lot of experience doing social media, graphic design, and other tasks throughout my various jobs. Even so, in less than a year, I went from $18 an hour to $35 an hour. It takes a lot of work, but it’s possible.
If you’re starting as a writer, you need to work for fair rates to you, and those gigs for 0.01 cents a word generally aren’t. They are also more likely to set unrealistic deadlines, ask for endless edits, and leave you a bad review no matter what happened. You can’t please them even with your best work.
While you can take 1 or 2 low-paying writing jobs to get a bit of experience and see if you enjoy it, don’t stick with it. Many people are out there looking for good writers who will respect you and pay a fair wage, even if you’re just starting your freelance journey.
Photo: Tatiana Syrikova/Pexels
Article first published in The Post-Grad Survival Guide